The Football Association has targeted an average attendance of 6,000 spectators for the Women’s Super League by 2024 in a new strategy for women’s professional football launched on Tuesday.
The FA says the overall aspiration is to build the “best women’s leagues in the world”, with the WSL and the championship “the most competitive, watched, assisted and followed”.
The three-year strategy – which has been led by the WSL and Championship board of directors in collaboration with clubs and other key stakeholders – states that the main goals are to « produce and attract top-notch talent. global ”,“ maximize and engage audiences ”and“ grow business revenues and financial sustainability ”.
In addition to 6,000 for the WSL, it includes an average attendance target of 1,000 for the Championship and the goal of selling Wembley for the Women’s FA Cup final by 2024.
The average attendance this season up to the fifth round of WSL matches – which is in the first term of a three-year broadcast deal that sees matches televised on Sky Sports and the BBC – is 2,282. The figure is 544 for the Championship.
Kelly Simmons, director of women’s professional football for the FA, was asked on Tuesday if she was concerned about current attendance levels and if she felt they had taken a hit due to the availability of matches on television in the framework. of the new broadcast agreement.
She said: “We were around 3,000 (for the WSL) before Covid but that was skewed by very big crowds behind the Women’s World Cup (in 2019).
“I think when you take them out, we’re kind of back where we were in terms of women’s pitches. We obviously want to continue to build on that.
“The research we have done (shows) that there are still concerns among fans in terms of returning to big live events and using public transport.
“We have a fantastic opportunity with Sky and the BBC to build that awareness and redirect fans.
“I’m sure there is probably one element, for those who may be nervous, you now have access through BBC, Sky and the FA Player. But I think it’s more about recreating those habits and rebuilding the profile. «
The strategy also targets a minimum of 50% of WSL and Championship head coaches being women as of 2024. Currently in the WSL there are seven male and five female coaches, and each of the last four nominations. in the direction made by the clubs of the division were men.
Simmons said, “I think all we can do is make sure that we are doing everything we can to develop the pipeline of female coaches and give them the best chance for success. There is a lot of work behind the scenes. «
As far as players are concerned, a new local rule of eight out of 25 has been introduced this season, and the strategy also states that a goal is « to optimize and diversify the course for young players ».
Asked about plans to reach talent in less affluent or urban areas, Simmons said: More diverse.
“We just consulted on what that might look like for next season.
“What has happened, I think, is because of the budgets, we’ve tended to sort of put the talent centers in training grounds that can sometimes be in the leafy suburbs, and that n is not the most accessible for city centers and to ensure that we are accessible to all talent.
“Ultimately it’s about making sure that we have a very broad base for girls to come in and access a quality program and that we can identify more talent and then the role of clubs in developing. their academies. There is more to come on this. »
The strategy also targets leagues “financially viable within five years” and clubs “investing for short-term growth but working towards the sustainability of women’s teams within 10 years”.
He also said that a goal by 2024 was an agreement on « the best future ownership structure to maximize leagues growth, » with Dawn Airey, chair of the WSL and Championship board, saying that although a decision was « quite a long time ago », it was « a very active conversation … going hand in hand with the clubs ».
The launch of the strategy – the goals which Airey says can be achieved regardless of the England women’s home price next summer in euros – precedes the third ‘Women’s Football Weekend’ to take place in the next few days.